Home > Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always(12)

Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always(12)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

“Crap,” I mutter, pressing my fingers to the brim of my nose. I have a splitting headache and my hair smells like beer and my pores feel sticky. I hike across the lawn toward the corner of the street so I can read the street sign, knowing it could be worse. I could be in one of the lower-class areas of Las Vegas, but this looks like it’s a nice area, located near some cul-de-sacs and upper-class homes. When I reach the corner of the street, I shield my eyes with my hand and squint up at the street sign. Damn it, I’m way too far away from my apartment to walk. I can either take the bus, which I haven’t been a fan of since I was fourteen, or I can call someone. The only person I really know around here anymore—the only one who I trust seeing me like this—is Ethan Gregory. He’s the one and only bad boy I’ve ever had in my life and the one and only guy who’s never wanted to sleep with me, which makes him seem less bad to me, but to all the other girls he sleeps with, not so much.

I first met him two summers ago when I went with my best friend Ella back to her hometown. He was the best friend to the guy Ella was in love with, Micha—although she wouldn’t admit it at the time. While those two were working out their problems, I spent a lot of time with Ethan and we hit it off. There was this strange connection between us, like we understood each other, even though we were from totally separate worlds: rich and poor. Even when I went back to school in the fall, we still talked on the phone. And then he moved here and we’ve been hanging out pretty much ever since.

Cursing under my breath, I find my phone that luckily is still in the side pocket of my dress, and then I punch in Ethan’s number.

He answers after three rings and his voice is laced with amusement. “Well, hello, lovely Lila. What’d you do this time?”

I ignore the ripple through my body that his voice always causes. After knowing him for a year, I’ve pretty much become an expert at discounting the emotions he always brings out inside me, which is a good thing for many different reasons. For one thing we live in two separate worlds: I like nice things and Ethan is very unmaterialistic. He calls me spoiled a lot and I call him a weirdo because I don’t get half the things that he does, like refusing to buy nicer clothes when he has the money for them. He’s so sexy and if he’d wear jeans without holes in them and new shoes and shirts he’d look so much better.

Plus, even though I hate to admit it, my mother’s words always echo in my head: If you can’t find a man to take care of you then you’ll end up living in a crack house, just like your sister. Find a wealthy man, Lila, and hang on to him no matter what sacrifices you make. Despite the absurdity of it, I can’t seem to get the mental picture out of my head of me curled up in a ball on a ratty old couch, dressed in rags, smoking crack from a pipe, and it scares me.

“I didn’t do anything… I don’t think anyway. I just need a ride,” I say in a whiny voice because I’m tired and filthy and disgusting.

“Again?” he replies, pretending to be annoyed but I’ve gotten to know him well enough to know he really isn’t. He just likes people to think he is because he likes to seem tough and a badass. But I know he’s not. He’s actually really sweet and talks and listens to me and gives me candy canes. I still have a drawer full of the ones he gave me, unable to eat them or throw them away because then it feels like I’m losing a nice moment in my life with a guy and those kind of moments are very rare, if nonexistent.

“Are you there?” he says, interrupting my thoughts.

“Yes, I need a ride again.” I sink down on the curb, attempting not to think of candy canes and red lacy bras. That was a one-time thing. We both agreed that there would be no hooking up. Although, I agreed to it only because he seemed so eager to make it clear it would never happen again. “So will you or won’t you come pick me up?”

“God, you’re snippy today,” he remarks with humor in his tone. “And I don’t think I want to deal with it today. I’m too f**king tired from the woman I screwed last night. She really wore me out. Plus, I have to be to work later today.”

“Don’t be an ass.” I scowl, even though he can’t see me. “Please quit messing around and just come get me. Pretty please.”

He pauses and then sighs, defeated. “I’ll come get you though, but only if you say it.”

“I’m not going to say it, Ethan. Not today.” I prop my elbow on my knee and rest my chin against my hand. He wants me to tell him that I’ll be his sex slave, something he made me promise to say the last time he picked me up. He doesn’t really want me to be one, though. He just thinks he’s funny.

“That was the deal,” he reminds me. “If I ever had to come pick you up again.”

“But I made the deal when I wasn’t this cranky,” I say and grimace. “When it seemed like a good idea.”

“Fine.” He surrenders way too easily and it makes me smile just a little. “But next time I’m making you… In fact, I might even actually be your sex slave the next time you call me,” he says and I sigh heavily. “I’ll head out in a few.”

“Thank you,” I tell him, stretching my legs out onto the road. “And I’m sorry for being so pissy. I’m just hung-over.”

“You didn’t go out with that douche from the club, did you?” he asks and I can hear him moving around. “Because I told you the guy seemed sketchy. Although all the guys you’ve hooked up with seem a little bit sketchy, if you ask me—rich, preppy douche bags.”

“They’re not douche bags. They’re just different from what you’re used to.” I yawn, extending my arms above my head. “And no, I didn’t go home with the guy from the club… I don’t think anyway. I can’t even remember who I went home with.” I cringe as I try to put the pieces together, but I can’t even seem to find one full piece.

“Lila…” he starts, but then decides against it, probably because he sleeps around just as much as I do. “Where are you exactly?”

I breathe a sigh of relief, grateful he’s not giving me anymore crap for my sexual mishap. I’m hung-over and having withdraws and I can feel myself verging on a meltdown, something that can never happen, let alone in the open. “I’m on the corner of Vegas Drive and Rainbow.”

“Where exactly? In like a store or a house or something?”

“No, I’m sitting on the curb.”

He’s quiet for a moment. This isn’t the first time he’s had to pick me up under these kinds of circumstances and it probably won’t be the last. It’s kind of our thing; we share our stories and never judge each other, despite how bad and ugly the stories are. He knows things about me that no one does, like how my father treats me, and I know things about him, too, like how his dad used to beat his mother and how he despises him for it. “I’ll be there in, like, fifteen to twenty minutes. Don’t go wandering off anywhere.”

“Where would I go?” I pull my knees up and lower my forehead onto them. “It’s too damn hot outside to even breathe.”

“And try not to get into any trouble,” he adds, disregarding my comment.

“Fine.” I roll my eyes and then squeeze them shut, inhaling the sweltering air. “And, Ethan…”

He pauses. “Yeah.”

“Thank you again,” I say softly because I really do feel bad for making him do these things for me. He’s always so nice about it, too.

Another pause and then he gives an overexaggerated sigh. “Whatever. You’re welcome.”

We hang up and I feel the slightest bit better. He’s always there for me, even when he doesn’t want to be. He’s the only person I really talk to anymore and I worry what will happen if he decides to leave me.

I lie down on the sidewalk and twist my platinum ring around on my finger as I stare up at the melting blue sky and the blinding sunlight. For a moment I don’t care about how filthy the ground is or the fact that my dress is undone and my eyes are starting to sting. In fact, for a split second I know I belong there and nowhere better. But as I press my cheek against the scalding concrete, I remember that I was taught not to lie on a filthy ground. I sit up straight and trace the ugly circular scars on each ankle, the mark of my biggest imperfection both inside and out.

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